First official shipment of Australian coal arrives in China after two-year trade ban

The first official shipment of Australian coal has landed in China as Beijing scrambles to “normalize” relations with the new Labor government.

About 72,000 tons of metallurgical coal arrived at the port of Zhanjiang in southeastern China on 8 February. This is the first time in two years since economic sanctions were imposed on Australian exports in 2020.

The move was welcomed by Trade Minister Don Farrell.

“A step towards resolving trade barriers would be welcomed,” it said in a statement obtained by the AAP.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the relationship was important for local jobs and that China received more exports from Australia than its three trading partners combined.

“We have not only resources but also the best wine, meat, barley and seafood in the world,” he told reporters on February 9. [the coal reports] Confirmed. “

Nationals Senator Bridget Mackenzie said the move would boost local employment.

“They are all very keen to make sure that our national sovereignty is at the forefront and center of the federal government’s relationship with foreign powers,” she told the AAP.

At the same time, the senator called on the government to do more domestically to improve the sector.

“It’s good that the federal government celebrates trade ties, but it’s also concerning that 18 coal and gas projects have been put on hold, [billionaire Clive Palmer’s] A coal project in Queensland,” she said.

Trade Sanctions Launched in Response to COVID Investigation Calls

The Chinese Communist Party launched an economic coercion campaign against Australian exporters in May 2020 after the then-Morrison administration called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Unofficial trade sanctions have wiped out a range of Australian commodities, including barley, wine, beef, lobster, timber and coal.

However, the move prompted a surge in “grey market” activity, with companies simply bypassing direct export routes to China and via other sanctions-free regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

For example, according to industry statistics, prior to December 2020, Australian Western Rock Lobster exports to Hong Kong were negligible, but by April 2021, Hong Kong was receiving 400 tonnes per month.

A similar situation occurred with Australian wine and coal exports. In some cases, the coal was purchased by a third party and sold to Chinese steel mills at greatly inflated prices.

Beijing works hard to normalize Australian trade

Talk of a “normalization” of trade between Australia and China became more apparent after the election of the Labor government.

Prior to the Albanian government’s election victory in May 2022, former Labor Party representatives were quick to criticize Morrison’s government for mishandling relations with Beijing.

However, upon gaining power, the Prime Minister and his ministers followed on behalf of their predecessors, emphasizing that they would not undermine the country’s national interests.

Yet Beijing has taken a number of steps to bridge the diplomatic gap with its counterparts, including holding the first high-level talks between the government’s trade ministers since 2019. It was almost completely ignored.

The CCP has also hinted at easing trade sanctions on evidence of recent coal shipments.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning told reporters that Beijing was ready to “restart dialogue and communication” on various fronts while “working to rebuild trust” with Australia. .